GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- With hurricane season in full swing, University of Florida researchers are in the midst of building training centers around the state to showcase the latest materials and techniques in hurricane-resistant housing and encourage their use in construction.
Shingles capable of staying attached in a 110-mph wind and reinforced garage doors that can withstand a category 5 hurricane are among the features of the four Windstorm Damage Mitigation Training and Demonstration Centers being built by UF.
The training centers are designed to educate the public, builders and other construction industry workers as to the available ways to protect new and existing homes from wind damage typically caused by severe storms and hurricanes.
"The centers let the public know that the government, the construction industry and the university are concerned about property loss due to wind damage," said Robert Stroh, director of UF's Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing, which designed and is overseeing the construction of the training buildings. "This is a publicly visible effort to reduce the loss of life and property."
The first such training center opened last month in Fort Pierce and has received plenty of interest, Stroh said. Three more will open within the next year in Escambia, Miami-Dade and St. Johns counties, and a fifth tentatively is slated for Pinellas County.
The Shimberg Center is based in UF's M.E. Rinker Sr. School of Building Construction, and the project is funded by the state Department of Insurance.
The 3,126-square-foot buildings, designed to look like a typical single-family home, are capable of withstanding winds of at least 110 mph, or nearly category 3 strength. Yet some components can withstand winds much stronger than that, Stroh said.
For example, the garage doors of the training centers are reinforced by a system that meets impact and pressure requirements for winds of up to 180 mph. A typical garage door, without similar reinforcement, resists winds of between 70 mph and 110 mph.
Another feature of the centers is an insulated, reinforced concrete form wall system that meets the wind-load and impact resistance requirements of the South Florida Building Code, the most stringent in the state, Stroh said.
The roofs of the one-story training centers are held down by metal strapping, and a spray adhesive is applied to the roof sheathing to improve the wind resistance.
"You would almost have to lift the house off the ground before the roof blows away," Stroh said.
While some features, such as the wall system, are applicable only to new construction, visitors may borrow some ideas to improve the wind resistance of their current homes. For instance, three impact-resistant shutter systems on display can be installed on existing homes, Stroh said.
The cost of making a home more wind-resistant is worth the investment, said Frank Lepore, a National Hurricane Center spokesman. Property damage costs from hurricanes total about $4.5 billion in the United States each year, he said.
"If you were to compare out-of-pocket costs to damages caused by a hurricane, you would still come out ahead," Lepore said. "It's worth the additional money to prevent damage to the structure."
Each training center includes its own classroom complete with audiovisual equipment that will accommodate classes of 40 attendees. Transparent panels cover cut-away sections of the wall and ceiling to reveal the internal construction and structural connections.
The participating counties have agreed to pay all future maintenance and operating costs and ensure that the centers are used for training purposes. The Fort Pierce training center is free and open to the public, as the other centers will be upon completion.
The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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